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Dream Reading Machine

May 5, 2013


So this story really is in the journal Science, not, say the Weekly World News (where “Facebook Will End on May 15“–remember the days when the world was about to end? Nowadays, who cares about the world if Facebook ends). Neuroscientists think they have found a way to “read” what you are dreaming in your sleep.

In this experiment, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) were collected from the brain of a sleeping subject. Magnetic resonance imaging is noninvasive; it involves putting you inside a giant superconducting magnet, which then measures energy transitions between magnetic states of nuclei of an odd-numbered atomic nucleus such as hydrogen or iron. The standard fMRI detects blood flow based on the magnetic iron content of hemoglobin. Essentially, it’s a way to measure which parts of the brain are working harder because they get more blood flow.

First the researchers recorded fMRI patterns within the sleeping brain; then they woke up the subject and asked them to report what they saw in their dreams. By repeating this procedure, the researchers built up a database correlating blood-flow patterns with specific classes of images.

F1.mediumThe next stage was to train a computer to correlate fMRI patterns with specific classes of images that the subject visualized, such as a person or a pointed object. Then, the researchers recorded fMRI during sleep–and tried to predict what the subject would report seeing in the dream. Apparently the researchers succeeded with 60% accuracy, far greater than expected by chance. They concluded that people actually see what they claim to see in dreams, rather than “making it up.” That may not sound like rocket science–but suppose it hastens the day when our brains can all be connected in an electromagnetic network.

One Comment
  1. May 6, 2013 3:40 pm


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